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Telecommunications or Electronic communications

With a view to completion of the internal market, telecommunications liberalisation emerged as a priority for the European Community at the end of the 1980s. It began in 1988 with the opening up of the telecommunications terminals markets to competition and continued in 1990 with the liberalisation of telecommunications services other than voice telephony.

In 1993, the Council of Ministers decided to fully liberalise voice telephony services by 1 January 1998.

In the meantime, the liberalisation process was extended in 1994 to satellite communications and broadcasting services and then, in 1996, to cable television networks and mobile communications. At the same time, an open telecommunications infrastructure and services network (ONP) was put in place from 1990. The adoption of common rules allowed the conditions of access to the market for new operators to be harmonised.

From 1994 onwards, in the context of developing the 'information society', general liberalisation of telecommunications structures was presented as the way to develop multimedia. Various initiatives were adopted on the harmonisation of mobile (single European GSM standard) and satellite communications standards, and the integrated services digital network (ISDN).

On 1 January 1998, the full liberalisation of Europe's telecommunications market became a reality.

In order to accompany the opening of the sector to competition, the European Commission began the huge task, in 1999, of recasting Europe's regulatory framework for telecommunications. The general aim was to improve access to the information society by striking a balance between regulation of the sector and Europe's competition rules. This regulatory framework for electronic communications is made up of five harmonising directives, focussing in particular on the framework directives, access and interconnection, authorisation, universal service and users rights and protection of privacy. To these were added the Decision of 2002 on radio spectrum policy and the Regulation of 2002 on access to the local loop.

The Commission is currently re-examining this regulatory framework with a view to taking technological changes in the market into account and meeting the needs of the sector over the next ten years.

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